Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

Month: October, 2013

QuikStats: MERS-CoV in the Arabian Peninsula (Nov 2013)

“No to slavery … That is not a world we will accept … Not here. Not overseas. Not anywhere.” Former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard (8th March 2013) who will be speaking at the 2013 WISE Summit: Reinventing Education for Life in Doha, Qatar (29-31 October 2013)

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***** Please note that this infographic of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was updated with public source information to 1200hrs 20 November 2013 EST *****

The world’s top virology experts have watched the recent Hajj very closely, as has the world’s media since it first came on the scene in April 2012. It initially sprung up in Jordan but was soon exported to Saudi Arabia which has taken the hardest hit from the disease. As I write this blog 125 persons are confirmed to have caught the disease in the Kingdom, with 54 of them dying).

Of concern were the 2-million pilgrims who would be travelling together to the various sites (numbers were down approximately 1/3rd on recent years, possibly due to MERS-CoV). Although sometimes cramped the Hajj is generally well organised and supported including health and vaccination facilities. Some very good writers have expressed doubts about the data coming out of Saudi Arabia but the Hajj is behind us now. It seems that outside of some individual cases, as the possible French case highlights, major concerns about Saudi Arabia and the Hajj might have overblown.

Perhaps those same concerns should be directed at Qatar and the conditions of those who are building the FIFA World Cup stadiums for 2022?

Qatar has a population of just 1.9-million, of which only 15% are Qatari. In 2012, the country’s Gross Domestic Product per capita was the richest in the world at $89,736 (compare that to Australia $62,003, Canada $51,554, US $48,113, KSA $24,116 or Yemen $1,361). Yet a lot of the country is actually populated by very poor foreign workers who make up 94% of its total workforce.

Recently The Guardian newspaper has highlighted the abject conditions of those working on construction sites. In the first article the International Trade Union Confederation has estimated that at current numbers the construction of FIFA World Cup facilities will cost around 4,000-lives mostly via heat related illness or workplace incidents, although the data is sketchy at best (and non-existent at worst).

In another article Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’ the newspaper investigates and documents multiple cases of workers being abused and living in awful conditions. Excerpt:

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also reveals:

  • Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.
  • Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.
  • Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.
  • Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.
  • About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

And another excerpt which mentions the living conditions:

The Guardian’s investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

For those working and living in cramped filthy conditions or working long arduous days without proper food or hydration would be more at risk to just a seasonal flu. What about the practice of going to work when ill or ‘presenteeism’? How many of the 85% of non-Qatari’s in the monarchy have access to decent medical help.

With 44 Nepalese dying in just 66-days and a further 82 Indians dying in the first five months of this year in work related incidents it seems trite to concern ourselves with a relatively small outbreak of a disease which only caused two deaths in 2013.

As I write this post in late October MERS-CoV has been confirmed in just seven cases in Qatar with two onsets in recent weeks.

I’m not trying to suggest that all migrant workers in that country are going to get the virus it does seem a more likely vector than the better organised and supported Hajj pilgrimage.

As I did with the recent MERS-CoV infographics I’ll keep the infographic updated as new information comes to hand through to the end of November. Here is a copy of the original infographic posted with data to 29 October 2013:

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Acknowledgements: Data for this infographic was sourced largely from CIDRAP, H5N1, FluTrackers and the WHO. Background reading supplied mainly via Pandemic Information News, Ian at Virology Down Under and Helen Branswell.


30 Oct 2013 – Via H5N1Oman: Sultanate reports first MERS case;

1 Nov 2013 – Via H5N1: Dr. Mackay reflects on the latest MERS cases;

3 Nov 2013 – Amendments to infographic as suggested by Crawford Kilian (detailing methodology);

7 Nov 2013 – Via H5N1: Dr. Mackay has questions about the Spanish MERS case;

8 Nov 2013 – Via CIDRAP: UAE, Saudi Arabia report 3 more MERS cases;

9 Nov 2013 – Via H5N1: Qatar: New MERS case is an expatriate;

11 Nov 2013 – Via H5N1: Oman reports first MERS death;

12 Nov 2013 – Via GulfNews.com: Omani visitor dies from Mers virus in Abu Dhabi emirate (h/t Helen Branswell);

17 Nov 2013 – Via H5N1: CIDRAP: MERS death toll rises as WHO confirms 2 cases and Kuwait: Some details on the second MERS case;

20 Nov 2013 – Via H5N1: CIDRAP: Saudi Arabia reports 2 more MERS cases;

QuikStats: Avian Influenza A(H7N9) Autumn 2013

H7N9 in China “is still present and there is still a great deal not yet understood about this H7N9 virus. Other influenza viruses that circulate in poultry often decrease dramatically during the summer months, only to reappear later in the year during cold season. Also, many low pathogenic influenza viruses in poultry have transformed into highly pathogenic viruses.” (Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, 18th September 2013)

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***** Please note that this infographic of the Avian Influenza A(H7N9) was updated with public source information to 1200hrs 3 December 2013 EST. There will be no more infographic updates for this post *****

After 80-days in the wilderness and with the world’s pandemic attention more focussed on the Middle East the H7N9 virus has popped up again.

When H7N9 was daily news the eye of the storm was concentrated on the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu and the municipality of Shanghai. As the daily case numbers declined after April the movement of the virus seemed to deploy outward at a snail’s pace. In fact the previous four case onsets to this one were Jiangxi (East China), Beijing (North China), Hebei (North China) and in Huizhou, Guangdong (South Central China) barely a 100-kilometres from Hong Kong.

After two cases were reported in the middle of summer H7N9 has backtracked returning to more familiar hunting grounds in Zhejiang half-way through the northern hemisphere autumn striking down a relatively young man, aged just 35 (according to my data the average age prior to this case was 57).

Cause like all good mysteries just as we think H7N9 is gone, it pops up again.

As my calendar permits I’ll keep the infographic updated as new information comes to hand through the autumn months. Here is a look at the first infographic I produced with the 137th case presenting in Zhejiang on the 8th October 2013.

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Acknowledgements: Data for this infographic was sourced largely from CIDRAP, H5N1, FluTrackers and the WHO. Background reading supplied mainly via Pandemic Information News, Ian at Virology Down Under and Helen Branswell.


QuikStats: Australian Political Party Membership

“There are more people on the waiting list to join the Melbourne Cricket Club than there are rank-and-file members in all Australian political parties put together.” (Cathy Alexander, 18th July 2013)

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With the very recent election of Bill Shorten as Opposition Labor Leader much has been made of the lack of political membership in the Australian Labor Party. Party membership across all the parties is in sharp decline. On that point, I was unable to find any actual detail on the Liberal Party, with the exception of Our Structure which states 80,000 in the Organisational Wing. Instead of using the website figures I’ve chosen to go with the wider held view that the LP has only about 50,000 paid members given that in 2008 there were just 13,000 members in Victoria. The best data I could get on the Greens was from a 2010 Age article which had them above 10,000 for the first time in their political history.

To emphasise just how poor the health of political party membership is I thought to put together an infographic on how they stack up against other organisations as originally suggested by Cathy Alexander in her recent Crikey piece plus some additional groups that I have thrown in.

As shown above both the Liberal and Australian Labor Party memberships are lower than

  • Organ donors in Tasmania;
  • The combined organ donors in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory;
  • The Australian Defence Force (regular Army, Navy and Air Force only as I didn’t include Reserves);
  • Scouts Australia;
  • The Collingwood Football Club;
  • Federation of Australian Historical Societies;
  • The Returned Services League;
  • The combined membership of the NRL (the combined Australian Football League (742,899) has almost 15-times either party);
  • The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee Association; and finally
  •  The Melbourne Cricket Club waiting list.

Luckily for both the Liberal and Labor party’s they still outnumber criminal bikie gang numbers.

For now.

Random Analytics: Mining Workforce Planning Scan (Sep 2013)

The Mining Workforce Planning Scan is a mixed quantitative/qualitative report card built from relevant online industry magazines and media sources. Utilising 14 data items (expressed as categories) the scan collates relevant stories over a period of time (in this case a calendar month) to give a picture of how Australian MINING is positioned from a workforce planning perspective.

Two Solid Months

With the Australian election now over there has been a return to confidence in the mining sector not seen since June 2012 when more than eight months of positive, or at least neutral employment sentiment were recorded (my analysis currently only goes back to November 2011). In terms of the mining workforce planning scan the trend is confirmed when the employment sentiment is consistently zero or above (see Chart 2) AND the employment category number is below Work Health & Safety (WH&S) or as the market tightens Industrial Relations (IR) (see Chart 1). We are not quite there as there is still some delayed cost cutting going on along with new ventures being announced.

Learning & Development & Research & Development (L&D/R&D) recently spiked during the August month on the back of a lot of election chatter around mining skills as an answer to other slowing sectors (see Chart 1 & 2). This has returned to a more normalised value during September but was an interesting outcome from the 7 September Commonwealth election.

Employment numbers were strong but it should be noted that many of the announcements made were actually on the infrastructure side making up 6,270 (or 87%) of the total monthly employee gains reported and most of those were actually detailing the tier 1 or tier 2 arrangements for iron projects in Western Australia or LNG projects in the Surat Basin, Queensland (see Chart 3).

Chart 1: Workforce Planning Categories

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The following chart is an 18-month look at 14 mining related workforce planning data items (expressed as categories) and the frequency of stories.

Chart 2: Positive/Negative Index

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The next chart is an 18-month look at 14 mining related workforce planning data items (expressed as categories) and their positive or negative weighting.

Chart 3: Mining Employment Gains & Losses

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The following table looks at the reported employment gains and losses. Job losses are actuals as reported by mining industry sources but often do not reflect the total loss of employment as some companies chose to limit information relating to redundancies. Employment gains are forecast and include infrastructure phases. Often employment gains are overstated as they link to public relations exercises.

Final Thought or Prediction

I see another month of transition data coming in as some companies continue to tidy up their less difficult workforce development areas (contractors, costs and corporate), some companies move beyond the low hanging fruit to address more difficult components of their strategic workforce planning and a number of companies launch greenfields proposals.

Interestingly, I also see the commencement of a new phase of Industrial Relations activity as commodity prices solidify and productivity ramps up.

Note: My previous Mining Workforce Planning Scan can be found at Random Analytics: Mining Workforce Planning Scan (August 2013). If you are interested in “How does the global economy work in a world of reducing ‘work’” then please check out my other blog PeakJobs.

QuikStats: MERS-CoV in the KSA (October 2013)

“People need to be careful in a very generic way, such as ensuring good hand hygiene. We would normally tell people to avoid very crowded situations, but obviously in this case, with the Hajj, that is unrealistic.” (Richard Brown, Regional adviser for communicable disease surveillance and epidemiology for WHO’s South East Asia Regional Office, 4 October 2013)

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***** Please note that this infographic of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was updated with public source information to 1200hrs 1 November 2013 EST *****

With just days to go until the HAJJ, the largest gathering of Muslims in one place each year and more than a year after the first cases of MERS-CoV came to our attention I thought it might be worthwhile concentrating on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this month.

The above infographic shows the distribution of MERS-CoV by onset province in the Kingdom. I have chosen to use the FluTrackers.com methodology and include one of the first victims who was actually a UK citizen, thus my numbers won’t match those that are officially noted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health.

Two points that were made clear to me during my research into the KSA MERS-CoV figures is that the basic data is awful; a far cry from what has been made available from the Chinese during their H7N9 outbreak. I won’t say too much more on that as many including Helen Branswell, Crawford Kilian and Ian M. Mackay have all commented about this for some months now but I would ask if anyone can see an error in the infographic please correct me and I’ll remedy ASAP.

A lot of discussion has taken place about the potential for MERS-CoV to utilise the HAJJ as a springboard for a rapid escalation of spread. The second point and key take-away from the infographic has been that the Kingdom is a very large country with a concentration of cases in the Eastern side of the country. At the date of initial publishing (8 October) 92 of the cases were in the Eastern and Riyadh regions, making up 78% of the cases with at least 21 of those cases involving the Al-Ahsa medical facility cluster which should be a singular event. That’s not to say that MERS-CoV will not spread but certainly to date the axis of the disease in removed from the massive concentration of peoples in the Western part of the country.

Here is a copy of the original infographic posted with data to 8 October 2013:

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As I did last month with the global MERS-CoV I’ll keep the infographic updated as new information comes to hand.

For those that are travelling for HAJJ, safe travels and let’s hope there is not much in the way of news.


Acknowledgements: Data for this infographic was sourced largely from CIDRAP, H5N1, FluTrackers and the WHO. Background reading supplied mainly via Pandemic Information News, Ian at Virology Down Under and Helen Branswell.